When Debra Byrne walked on stage (barefoot) to the Adelaide premiere of Ripe holding hands with her pianist, it looked for all the world like a nice nephew gently guiding his dear old aunty into place at a family funeral.
But when Byrne begins to sing she comes to life and any doubts about her ability to perform fly out of the window. Byrne carries a lot of history with her onto the stage from the happy little Debbie Byrne on Young Talent Time whom every grandmother adored (she’s an adoring grandmother herself these days) through to an award winning career spanning TV, film, theatre, musicals, recordings and of course cabaret. Sadly, her lows have been just as public encompassing a cruel litany of sexual abuse, health problems, drug and alcohol addiction and, perhaps saddest of all, depression and her attempts at suicide.
Fortunately for this particular festival those significant highs and lows bring to an audience everything they could possibly want in a modern cabaret diva. Byrne isn’t backward in coming forward about her personal and professional life, in fact she’s loquacious during the substantial breaks between numbers and displays a typically self–depreciating Australian sense of humour that endears her even further to her audience."The standing ovation at the end said it all. Debra Byrne holds a special place in the hearts of many Australians and rightfully so. If you see Ripe you’ll understand why"
The stage and lights are basic but it doesn’t matter as Byrne could perform on an old milk crate in a supermarket and everything else would disappear. That said, the musicians were superb and surprisingly two of the three, Sam Leske on guitar and Lyndon Gray on bass, are locals but it was the accomplished performance of Sydneysider Daniel Edmonds on piano that shone brightest on the night.
Although nothing shines brighter than Byrne’s voice particularly in the tender moments and, at 55, she still enjoys a powerful voice required for the more brassy numbers.
The standing ovation at the end said it all. Debra Byrne holds a special place in the hearts of many Australians and rightfully so. If you see Ripe you’ll understand why.
Debra Byrne is performing her show Ripe at the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival on 10, 13 and 14 June in the Space Theatre.
For more information visit www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au